Batten Down: An Exciting Summer Prospect

June 24, 2024

Batten Down buttoned up the Ohio Derby. (Adam Coglianese) 

Reflections on the Ohio Derby

By Laura Pugh

It may have taken Batten Down four starts to get his first win, but the royally bred son of Tapit must have liked the view from the winner’s circle, because he notched his second victory in a row in the Ohio Derby this past Saturday. 

Batten Down, a full brother to graded stakes winner Tacitus, turned so many heads with his sharp maiden breaking victory that he was briefly considered for the Belmont Stakes. However, the plan was quickly scrapped, with Mott wanting to give the colt a less steep incline in competition, which is what led the team to the Ohio Derby. 

While the race didn’t look as visually appealing as his 8 ¾ length airing at Churchill Downs, there was still plenty to like about the Ohio Derby. Despite swift opening splits of 22.86 and 46.82, Batten Down repelled a series of challengers that looked as though they had all the momentum to gobble him up turning for home. Remaining on his left lead was definitely a sign of greenness, and likely hindered him, but despite that he still prevailed by 1 ¾ lengths. 

Some might say that Batten Down’s very delayed lead change was a sign of him getting tired and could indicate that he won’t do well against deeper competition as the distances progress. However, Batten Down has already won at 10 furlongs, which is one furlong (1/8th of a mile) longer than the distance he ran in the Ohio Derby. Given this information, I’d say it is more likely that Batten Down was starting to get bored on the lead, and the lack of focus resulted in his delayed lead swap. 

Batten Down missed breaking his maiden at Keeneland in a three-way duel by only a head and a half-lengthClick to watch on X.

Trainer Bill Mott hasn’t said where Batten Down will end up next, but the logical step would be the Jim Dandy Stakes, as he no longer qualifies for the Curlin Stakes. Both are run at Saratoga on the same weekend; however, the Curlin Stakes is restricted to 3-year-olds that haven’t won a stakes beyond a mile in the current year. 

Earlier this month, the Jim Dandy looked like a pretty stacked race as both the Belmont winner and runner-up, Dornoch and Mindframe, were pointed towards the race. However, Todd Pletcher updated the press on Saturday that Mindframe, in addition to Florida Derby winner Fierceness, would be pointed to the Haskell Invitational instead. Of the other current possibles, Parenting and Sierra Leone represent the biggest obstacles, however neither are confirmed to go. 

Dornoch would not be denied but Mindframe gave a great effort. (Susie Raisher)
Dornoch would not be denied but Mindframe gave a great effort. (Susie Raisher)

Chad Brown, Sierra Leone’s trainer, has already said that he’s considering training the son of Gun Runner up to the Travers Stakes. Meanwhile, being trained by Bob Baffert, it is more likely that Parenting will wind up in the Haskell, considering Baffert’s exorbitant success in that race. 

This would make the Jim Dandy the perfect next step for Batten Down. Increasing his level of competition, but not necessarily throwing him to the lions. A win in the race would give him another victory against a top runner in the division, meaning he would have beaten the Louisiana Derby winner and the Belmont winner, before running in the Travers. 

Of course, all of these are very big if’s but there isn’t much reason to believe that Batten Down isn’t capable of upending Dornoch, just as he did Catching Freedom. He has a very high cruising speed, a weapon he’s now used to defeat his opponents twice in a row. Dornoch has a similar cruising speed but showed a willingness to sit off a faster opponent in the Belmont. What makes both of them so intriguing is that fact that both have a slower rate of deceleration, despite running testing early splits, which makes them more difficult to run down. 

In his second start, Batten Down was only a neck away from a win after battling in a three-way to the wire at Gulfstream Park. 

Dornoch will represent Batten Down’s first real front end test, seeing as how his two victories thus far came from unopposed, albeit fast, early leads. Batten Down has run well in the past when not gaining the early lead, running third in his third career start, only beaten by ½ length, after tracking the early pace. The questions he’ll face in the Jim Dandy is has he improved enough to track and win against a top-level horse, or is he skilled and brave enough to defeat that same horse at his own game?

He will definitely need to mature in his professionalism on the track but judging from his steady improvement and his overall level of talent, there is plenty to suggest that Batten Down could continue his steady march of wins through the Jim Dandy Stakes…setting up the Travers as a divisional showdown. 

Contributing Authors

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that...

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